The Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal has recently suspended a chiropractor after a complaint was made against him regarding an ongoing sexual relationship with a patient.

The chiropractor saw the patient every two weeks for almost three years. During the first few months of treatment the relationship was one of a normal provider/consumer or doctor/patient relationship.

Several months in the chiropractor discussed beginning a sexual relationship with the patient, which she agreed to. The sexual nature of the relationship continued for over two years. During that time the chiropractor continued to treat the patient’s child.

A complaint against the chiropractor was made to the Tribunal. The Tribunal had to consider three charges:

1.    During a period of time in which he was caring for the patient, the chiropractor commenced a sexual and/or intimate relationship with her, and/or

2.    The chiropractor either failed to set and/or maintain professional boundaries with the patient, or engaged in a sexual relationship with the patient, and/or

3.    While caring for the patient’s child, the chiropractor engaged in a sexual relationship with the patient.

The Tribunal decided that all three charges had been made out and that the chiropractor’s conduct amounted to professional misconduct.

Given that the relationship had been ongoing, the Tribunal determined that the sexual nature of the relationship was not a “one-off momentary lapse in judgement”. The chiropractor committed a “sustained breach of professional ethics”.

The chiropractor voluntarily suspended himself from practice for 18 months. However, the Tribunal decided that the chiropractor’s continuing treatment of the patient’s child was an aggravating feature of the offending. The chiropractor was suspended by the Tribunal for a further 8 months.

Once the chiropractor returns to practice, there will be conditions placed on his employment. The Tribunal also ordered the chiropractor to pay $6,300 in costs.

It is important to be aware of your ethical and professional obligations as a health practitioner. If you are confused about these obligations, it pays to seek advice from a professional with experience in the area.


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Alan Knowsley and Hunter Flanagan-Connors